snack shelf

Toffee butter popcorn

Don't try this at home!

So there I am, in the snack aisle at the supermarket. I don't know how it happened. I didn't intend to go down the snack aisle. It just happened. Somehow.

So there I am, and all the goodies on the shelves are calling my name beseechingly.

"Oh, Pa-aul!" called the Snickers bars, "over here, hon!"

"You want me, I know you do," whispered the Pepperidge Farms chewy macadamia nut white chocolate chip cookies in a sultry, come-hither voice.

"You've had a hard day, you deserve a treat," cajoled the tin of salted cashew nuts.

"Psst," hissed the five-pound pack of red vines.

Like sirens luring sailors to their death on the rocks, the packages of cookies, and candies, and nuts shouted, or whispered, or purred, trying to lure me to a fateful choice.

The whole trip to the market was a mistake. I really could have prepared a fine dinner with things I already had in the kitchen, but I wanted some different vegetables, something green and leafy. "But while I'm here," I said to no one in particular, "I might as well pick up a few things." With that, I started through the market with my cart, no list, and an empty stomach. And somehow I ended up in the snack aisle.

Pop Secret toffee butter popcorn

I tried to resist, but it was pointless; I was trapped. With exceeding restraint I reframed the question from "What do I like best?" to "What is the least unhealthy for me?" Then my eyes fell on a box of Pop-Secret toffee butter premium popcorn. "New!" it pointed out tantalizingly.

Toffee butter popcorn. I'm thinking: "Must be like Cracker Jacks, I like Cracker Jacks and caramel corn." Check the carbs: 15 grams per serving. That's OK, I can handle that. It's got fiber, 2 grams protein. It has to be microwaved, so I can't eat it on the way home.

I tossed the box into my cart and fled to the dairy products case.

After dinner, I popped a DVD in the player and settled down to watch a movie. That's when I made my second mistake: I popped a packet of Pop-Secret Toffee Butter Premium Popcorn into the microwave and pressed the start button.

Well here's a secret! That stuff is toxic! When I opened the door of the microwave to take it out ("2 seconds between pops"), a thin, grayish-white plume rose from the "open this end" end of the bag. A stench filled the air, and it wasn't the smell of Cracker Jacks, and it wasn't the smell of caramel corn, and it wasn't the smell of toffee. It was acrid and harsh. It was offensive to the nose. The smell spread quickly throughout the entire house, drawn and recirculated by the air conditioning system.

With trepidation, I placed a kernel in my mouth for a taste. Did not taste like Cracker Jacks. Did not taste like toffee. Did not taste like carmel corn. It was cloyingly sweet, not "slightly" sweet as indicated on the box. "Natural and artificial flavor"? I don't think so. Well, artificial, definitely, but most un-natural.

I've been trying to think of something else that smells even similar, and the closest thing I can come up with is the smell of saccharine powder (Sweet 'n Low, the "pink stuff" you put in your coffee or tea).

By the way, the movie was The Big Kahuna with Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey, and some other guy unknown to me — not great, but somewhat thought provoking, and definitely superior to Pop-Secret!